By Lesley Van Arsdall

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — University of Pennsylvania-bound Harold Anderson was a standout student at Penn Charter, but what he does off the field-of-play is what makes him an inspiration.

Refusing to let his background or the violence near his West Philadelphia home define him, Anderson does all he can to help others.

“Outside my house, 2 in the morning, and someone started shooting,” Anderson recalled. “My mom ended up going to the front door because we heard sirens and they kept getting louder. And when she went outside, there was a guy laying out there dead.”

“Anderson comes from nothing. He knows poverty; he knows suffering and somehow, that did not extinguish his spark,” said Erin Hugh, Penn Charter dean for 11th and 12th grades.

Anderson thrived at Penn Charter. He gave the commencement speech at graduation and he earned a full academic scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he will study at the Wharton School of Business.

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On top of all the academic achievements, Anderson was also a multi-sport athlete at Penn Charter, participating in football, wrestling, and track and field.

“He brought his neighborhood with him to Penn Charter,” Anderson’s teacher Lee Payton said. “And he brought his experiences to Penn Charter. And all that has made him into this outstanding young man.”

Hughes feels Anderson has a quality that resonates with so many.

“He just has a love for people and beauty and (he) has a sincere commitment,” she said.

It’s that commitment that shapes Anderson’s future goal, which is to start a nonprofit organization supporting inner-city kids.

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“I feel like that’s what everyone is here for,” he said. “The more you give, you receive and when you start the cycle of giving and receiving, everyone is rising at the same time and no one is getting left behind.”

A young man wise beyond his years, Anderson has accomplished so much but he feels there is so much more to be done.

“Even though it’s still hard, I still want to keep pushing forward,” he said. “I’m getting a lot better at being able to stop and see how far I’ve come and all the blessings in my life.”

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